Reprinted from the April 2016 issue of Gospel Advocate Magazine, this article discusses the Gospel Advocate’s benefits to and connections with preachers of the gospel.
Periodicals in the Restoration Movement have had a tremendous influence on the brotherhood. Each, in its own way, has sought to inform, inspire and influence its readers on matters it deemed important. For over 160 years the Gospel Advocate has withstood the test of time, connecting with churches, encouraging elders and partnering with preachers. It strives to have a balance in its approach to Scripture and church issues.
While accepting his new role in 2011, current editor, Greg Tidwell, reminded us that, “Tolbert Fanning and William Lipscomb began publication of the Gospel Advocate in 1855 ‘with the hope of rendering some good service in the cause of truth’” (Gospel Advocate, September 2011, p. 3). The Gospel Advocate remains true to that vision of rendering good service in the cause of truth, and preachers, in particular, have benefitted from it.
Known as “Old Reliable,” the magazine has served as a regular source of information and inspiration for generations of preachers. A number of ministers shared their thoughts with me for this article concerning how the Gospel Advocate has impacted their ministry. Like me, several of them were second- or third-generation preachers and shared how the magazine was important to the ministries of their fathers as well.
A common thread soon became apparent as I read the responses. Sound, reliable, balanced, trustworthy, informative and inspiring were among the terms used. One comment in particular seemed to encapsulate the minister-magazine relationship. This minister said the magazine was “like a good friend walking beside me in my ministry.”
The career of a preacher can be demanding. The position calls for a very giving person. A preacher will draw upon his knowledge and is expected to give advice, answers, encouragement and direction for others. That storehouse of knowledge will give out unless it is continually replenished by study. The Gospel Advocate is an excellent way to supplement a regular regiment of study.
Preachers are always on the lookout for good sermon material. The Gospel Advocate articles are great for sermon ideas, and many are easily adapted to sermons in their published form. The articles are logically organized, practical in application, and contain an abundance of pertinent Bible references. They are sources of spiritual insight and encouragement.
Each issue carries a variety of subject matter even though many of the articles will reflect the overall theme of the issue. The special series or theme will usually provide four to five articles on the subject, suitable in many cases for a short series of sermons.
Articles can be removed from the magazine and filed for future use if an immediate need is not present. This is especially helpful to preachers when a topic is building in popularity but is not yet needed for discussion in the local work.
Several years ago I purchased the entire library of a man who was no longer preaching. His topical files were filled with Gospel Advocate articles, and they proved to be a very rich and immediate resource on a wide range of subjects including worship, grace, church discipline, women’s roles, baptism, the Holy Spirit, modesty and shepherding.
The nature of the articles is timeless. The biblical answers to lust, worship or forgiveness do not change from one decade to the next. Preachers who have access to any issue of the Gospel Advocate have access to good, solid sermon material.
Our brotherhood is not immune to conflict and disputes. The Gospel Advocate is timely in addressing current issues facing the church and offers well-reasoned articles to assist preachers, elders and others in understanding the subjects.
The editorials are especially helpful when new concerns arise. Although no periodical, school or congregation speaks for the church, the Gospel Advocate does not retreat from the opportunity to fairly describe an issue and lay it alongside the Bible for consideration. The soundness of the editors over the years has been an asset for the magazine, helping keep the focus on the Bible and our need to revisit the pleas of the Restoration Movement.
With its unparalleled length of publication in the brotherhood, the magazine also is a great source when researching past conflicts among brethren. Some doctrinal issues, such as instrumental music or women’s roles, tend to be revived from generation to generation. The same questions and arguments are inevitably raised and discussed among members of the current day. Many perhaps have no idea that these issues were previously discussed at length.
Preachers can benefit from a review of the articles and editorials from previous decades. A careful review will help him quickly assess the principle elements of the subject and become confidently prepared to address the issue in his current setting.
Aside from the articles and editorials, each issue also contains other departments of interest. My routine each month is first to read through these “lighter” areas and then read the “heavier” articles when I set aside the time to read more deeply.
“The Anderson Files” is a collection of noteworthy items from the publisher and former editor, Neil W. Anderson. This popular segment contains short entries celebrating milestones, sharing good ideas and applauding individuals and churches who make a difference.
A page of book reviews introduces newly published works to the readers each month. Preachers or the associate editor Dennis Loyd, who compiles this section, often write these reviews. Books included in this section are always worthy of purchase, and the reviews are very helpful.
The obituary page includes tributes to recently fallen soldiers for the Lord. Over the years, this long-standing element of the publication has given birth to the Gospel Advocate Obituary Index (gaobit.lipscomb.edu), which is one of the most complete compilations of deaths in the Restoration Movement spanning from 1855 to 1994. In addition to this collection, every December issue of the GA since 1983 includes an index with the listed obituaries for the year.
Although the Gospel Advocate is a national publication, several regional or local events are often advertised. Recent advertised events of interest include the Affirming the Faith Seminar in Oklahoma City, Okla., and the Reconnect Men’s Conference in Peachtree City, Ga. Even if a reader is unable to attend such events, it is still encouraging to know what is being done in the brotherhood. The continued success of such programs can also inspire other churches and preachers to see the need to provide similar programs in their own area.
Preachers are better equipped to teach others as they have the opportunity to learn from a wide array of experienced writers in the Gospel Advocate. “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2 NKJV). We are indebted to the Gospel Advocate for inspiring preachers for greater service by supplying content that informs, encourages and strengthens.
Mike Baker preaches for the Florence Boulevard Church of Christ in Florence, Ala., and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.